Wine

Put that Rosé Down!

A primer on iconic age-worthy rosés from Europe

Faith Armstrong Foster examining grapes
Faith Armstrong Foster, Onward Wines. Photo by Megan Reeves.

For a certain population of Spanish wine aficionados, the ephemeral López de Heredia rosado is a wine that deserves to be celebrated for its rarity and, well, non-rosé-ity. This is not your typical frippery of pigment- and oxygen-starved juice, given less gestation time from sealed steel tank to screw-capped bottle than a litter of pink puppies. This is a wine that sits in the bodega’s dusty catacombs for years and will last in your cellar for decades.

It’s one of a handful of iconic age-worthy European rosés sought out by a growing community of enthusiasts. The Italian members of this small club include the Tenuta Greppo Toscana Rosato from the emperor of Brunello di Montalcino, Biondi-Santi. And at Eleven Madison Park in New York, you can buy a 2012 bottle of the rarely seen or sniffed Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo from Abruzzo’s “unicorn” producerValentini, for $260.

France, of course, has its own tradition of vin rosé de garde, or age-worthy pink wine. In Côtes de Provence, Clos Cibonne grows old-vine Tibouren at its Cru Classé estate. This grape welcomes oxidative winemaking and spends 12 to 18 months aging in century-old casks in which floating veils of fleurette—yeast—impart tangy vibrancy to the golden Cuvée Tradition rosé when it’s released at the age of three. The wine continues to improve with cellar age for as long as four decades.

Palette, a microscopic appellation approximately six miles southeast of Aix-en-Provence, is home to Château Simone, where the fruit from a field blend of old selection massale vines is co-fermented to make a dark rosé of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan, Muscat Noir, Manosquin (Téoulier), and Castets that drinks best at a decade or more of age.

The glamour-puss in the Provençal stable of top-shelf rosé makers is Château d’Esclans, producer of the ubiquitous, easy-drinking Whispering Angel. For the past decade, this estate has created two ultraluxe rosés, called Les Clans and Garrus, made from old-vine Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino), that have enjoyed their élevage in temperature-controlled barrels. Winemaker Patrick Léon, the former managing director for Baron Philippe de Rothschild, knows a thing or two about making an age-worthy cuvée.

Katherine Cole is the author of four books on wine, including the newRosé All Day.” She is also the executive producer and host of “The Four Top,” a James Beard Award–winning food-and-beverage podcast on NPR One.

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